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Monday, June 13, 2016

A Vanilla Scented Tulip Orchid

Vanilla was not what I was expecting to smell yesterday when watering the Anguloa bench. If anything, I would have expected some foetid smells from the adjacent Nepenthes, quietly digesting their insect soup. Vanilla just isn't a fragrance I associate with Tulip Orchids. But no mistake, a little searching among the big accordion pleated leaves brought me to this guy, Anguloa cliftonii. At close range the fragrance was the familiar camphor/cineole common to many Euglossine bee fragrances, but with sweet overtones of vanilla. This is only the second time we have flowered cliftonii. Either I wasn't paying attention last time, or I caught it at the wrong time of day. What a treat.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Morning in the Orchid Center

We rotate weekend watering and it's generally a mad two hour rush to finish before the doors open at 9 am, so there's not much time for picture taking. This morning, however, I was determined, and grabbed my camera while the ponds were filling. Of course the laelias had to have their pictures taken first.

A flush of flowers and new shoots on Lycaste consobrina glowed in the early light. They are growing nicely in the crevices of rocks in our Mexico bed.

Paphiopedilulm superbiens has an enormous plum colored pouch that makes the petals look small by comparison.

One of our best kept secrets: Ionbulbon munificum. If the flowers aren't cool enough for you, check out the shaggy pseudoboulbs.

That long fringe of fibers just slays me. I'm completely smitten with this plant.

The acinetas are still coming on strong. They are beautiful, though none has a fragrance that can match the sweetest of the stanhopeas. Acineta mireyae looked lovely with a backdrop of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.

A cloud of Oncidium phymatochilum flowers floated above the pathway. We have about 50 seedling offspring of this plant approaching flowering size in the back up greenhouses. They will make a nice show next summer.

The (unsprung!) trigger hair in the center of the Catasetum expansum flower was ready for action. The flowers have a fragrance that no perfumer will ever bottle: dill pickles and spearmint.

June is a terrific month to visit the Fuqua Orchid Center. Stop by and see us!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Cattleya intermedia

Flowering for the first time and making its debut this week in the Orchid Display House is a lovely Cattleya intermedia that we received a couple of years ago from the Brazilian nursery, Floralia. It is a horticultural variety called "marginata" that is characterized by a rich violet color on the frontal lobe and the margins of the lateral lobes of the lip. Although the plant is about half the size of the adjacent Laelia purpuratas and almost literally in their shade, it's hard to miss. It's exceptionally vibrant. And just plain cute.

Cattleya intermedia grows as an epiphyte in Paraguay, Uruguay and the southern Brazilian states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, where it favors coastal or stream-side swamps from sea level to 300 meters, often in full sun. When our plants are not on display, we grow them in very bright light in our warm greenhouse.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Stealth Fragrance

Hiding in plain sight in the Orchid Display House is one of the most deliciously fragrant orchids in our collection. Braemia vittata seems to wait with calculated patience as you pass it by on the way to a bigger showier orchid. Then, when you are about ten feet downwind, its 'come hither' message turns you around. Braemia vittata flowers produce an astonishingly convincing made-in-a-bakery vanilla icing fragrance.

With its single accordion-pleated leaf, Braemia vittata superficially resembles a Polycycnis. And the arching column hints at a genetic affinity for the swan orchids. But the petals and sepals of Braemia are a deep blackened purple with yellow stripes (vittata means striped), and the lip has a furrowed callus instead of the fright-wig fringe of a Polycycnis.

Braemia is a genus with just a single species. B. vittata grows as a terrestrial in wet forests in French Guinea, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela, northern Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru at 50 to 500 meters elevation. We grow our plants right alongside our Polycycnis in a warm greenhouse in 80% shade in a mixture of premium moss and chopped tree fern fiber.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Acineta Season is Here

Acineta mireyae flowering in April in the Orchid Display House
The petals are lightly spotted with maroon
Removing one petal and one sepal allows a lateral view of the lip
A longitudinal section through the lip
The lip in dorsal view with the column removed
This has been a terrific year for our acinetas. So far, in April and May, we've had at least a half dozen plants in four different species in bud and flower. Most likely it's because last year we moved them to a brighter drier cooler location for the growing season. For a horticulturist there is no more gratifying reward for finally nailing the culture of some elusive group of plants.

Like other members of the subtribe Stanhopeinae, acinetas are pollinated by fragrance collecting male Euglossine bees. The globose flowers point downward on a pendant raceme like a loose cluster of grapes. The petals and sepals form a hood over the lip and column, creating a tunnel for the bee to enter. The bee scratches at the base of the lip to obtain the liquid fragrance. As he backs out, the sticky base of the pollinarium is applied to his back.

According to Christenson's review of the genus Acineta, in Orchid Digest (2006), the only recorded precise distribution for Acineta mireyae is from the type specimen, collected in Panama. Christenson considered mireyae a synonym of wolteriana.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Huntleya fasciata

All the huntleyas are wonderful, but this species, Huntleya fasciata, became an obsession for me after we flowered it for the first time a few years ago. The flowers are thick and glossy and the color of candy apples.

And unlike the flowers of Huntleya wallisii, which seems to appear like a magnificent solitary comets, these pop up like dandelions.

Check out the claw at the base of the lip. Elaborate lip fringe is a hallmark of the Huntleya clade (Pescatoria, Chondroscaphe, Kefersteinia, Chaubardia, etc.).

Our huntleyas are permanent residents of the fog zone immediately adjacent to our propagation benches, the only place we maintain humidity continuously in the 80 to 95% range. I like to grow them in slatted wooden baskets which fall apart naturally after a couple of years and are easy to remove with minimum root disturbance. Huntleyas and their relatives hate root disturbance, and although the fan-shaped growths look like promising candidates for division, the success rate is not high, even when the divisions consist of multiple fans. Fortunately, huntleyas are selfed readily and produce nice fat capsules. I hope to have a crop of fasciata seedlings for distribution in a couple of years.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gongora gratulabunda

There is only one species (or section if you accept flaveola and similis) in the genus Gongora that has this wonderful serpentine kink near the base of the lip: gratulabunda. The flowers are large for a Gongora and widely spaced. It is instantly recognizable and one of my favorites. G. gratulabunda grows as an epiphyte in wet tropical forests along the Pacific coast of Colombia at 850 to 1600 meters elevation. Rudolf Jenny states in his Monograph of the Genus Gongora that it is one of the rarest of the genus.

After at least three attempts I finally managed to set a capsule on one of our gratulabunda accessions. Most of our gongoras resist pollination by hand, at least when the pollinia are freshly released from the anther. Over and over again they seem to want to spring back out of the stigmatic cavity like a rabbit eared jack-in-the-box. Lately I've been letting Gongora pollinia dry for 30 minutes before placing it in the stigmatic opening with a little more success. Gratulabunda means 'wishing luck' which sums up my hopes for our new gratulabunda seedlings.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

At Last, Flowers

I could hardly believe it. Flowers? On our Mischobulbum? My first impulse was to seize the label to check the date of acquisition. Little Mischobulbum sp. 20071376 has labored for eight long years to produce this delicate inflorescence. Congratulations, little plant.

Grateful as I am for the flowers, it seems to me that ninety-nine percent of this orchid's coolness resides in the vegetative part of the plant -the terete pseudobulbs, like chubby green fingers, and the heart shaped leaves. No other orchid in our collection looks remotely like this.

Mischobulbum is not a universally accepted genus. Some authors fold it into the Asiatic genus Tainia. Mischobulbum species are terrestrial, with creeping rhizomes and terete pseudobulbs of one internode, spaced between one and three centimeters apart. A single cordate leaf emerges near the top of the pseudobulb. There are eight species from Thailand, peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra. They are not common in cultivation, so this is a prized plant in our collection.

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